What Does A Lump In Your Breast Feel Like? Here’s What To Look For

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Everyone knows the importance of breast self-exams. While the instructions for administering one seem simple at first glance — feeling around your breast for any lumps or bumps — administering one can be overwhelming if you don't know what to look for. If you don't actually know what a lump in your breast is supposed to feel like, especially compared with "normal" breast tissue, the process can be extremely daunting.

While mammograms are important when it comes to detecting and preventing breast cancer, breast self-exams can be equally as crucial. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, people should self-examine their breasts at least once a month. These exams have been clinically proven to be life-saving: a 2003 study conducted by the National Health Interview Survey found that 25 percent of breast cancer survivors detected breast cancer themselves by self-examination.

If you're not sure what to look for, don't panic. Everyone's breast tissue can feel different, since every body is different, but the more you conduct a breast self-exam, the more familiar you'll be with your own breasts' texture. "It may feel like soft to medium consistency and may feel smooth to bumpy on touch," according to Dr. Adeeti Gupta, founder of Walk In GYN Care in New York City. "I usually tell patients, if they feel something new, something firm and hard like an almond or a walnut or just something that they did not notice before, then they should come in for a check up." Lumps can be painful or painless, according to the American Cancer Society, but if it feels "off" or different, it's worth bringing to your doctor's attention.

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If you're not sure how to do a breast self-examination, Dr. Gupta says the best time of the month to self-examine your breasts is during your period. You'll want to examine with the flat of your hand, and move clock-wise on the breast while keeping your hand flat and applying slight pressure. Dr. Gupta also advises holding the side of your breast that you are examining upwards, and then repeat the process once you get to the other side.

Unfortunately, according to Dr. Gupta, there's really no prior symptoms of a lump in your breast, other than, well, feeling it yourself. "When the lump is a little deeper as it usually is, women do not feel anything outwardly. That being said, if the lump has become advanced or is closer to the skin, then it may present as dimpling or puckering of the skin above the lump area. Sometimes, women may feel that breast is heavier or bigger," Dr. Gupta says.

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Also, it's important to add that just because you find a lump while self-examining, it doesn't necessarily mean you have breast cancer. In fact, plenty of lumps are benign, according to the American Cancer Society. Your OBGYN is there to guide you and help you figure out the best course of action that works for you.

Self-breast exams can help women of all ages stay on top of their breast health. If you notice something that seems out of the ordinary, you may find it helpful to talk to your OBGYN and seek professional medical attention. Being familiar with your breasts and recognizing how they change and develop with time can be pretty useful when it comes to understanding your own health, and how to stay proactive when it comes to your body and wellbeing.